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There has been a real retrenchment in USA with respect to climate policy: Michael Greenstone

In an exclusive interview with Anurit Kanti of BW BusinessWorld, Greenstone shares his views on the policy transitions from President Obama’s administration to President Trump’s administration and bilateral relations between India and USA.

On 7th July, at the National Conference on Air and Water Pollution, held at the UChicago Centre in Delhi, Michael Greenstone, a Milton Friedman Professor in Economics and the College, University of Chicago, and Director of Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago gave the inaugural address. He had previously served as the Chief Economist for President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, and currently serves on the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board. In an exclusive interview with Anurit Kanti of BW BusinessWorld, Greenstone shares his views on the policy transitions from President Obama’s administration to President Trump’s administration and bilateral relations between India and USA.  

How is Trump’s decision to back out of the Paris Accords going to impact the global fight against climate change?

I think, it will not help. United States of America provided a lot of important leadership, both in getting countries to make larger commitments and in monitoring and integrity, and verification. So, it’s not a step forward. It’s a setback to the global fight against climate change, and we’ll have to wait and see how it exactly affects climate change mitigation efforts.

So how is the global fight against climate change impacted exactly?

Well, I think we are going to find out, other countries are going to have to step into the void, and we will have to see how that goes. Countries like India and China will have to step up their game, and so do other countries and we’ll have to see how the rest of the world gears up when a high-emission country like USA is no longer in the fight against climate change.

What are the major changes in policy in the Trump administration from the Obama administration?

There’s been a real retrenchment with respect to climate policy. The Clean Power Plan has been pulled back which was a major way to address stationary emissions in the US. That shows up in many different ways, the regulation for stationary resources, the express desire to regulate transport less vigorously. And of course the pulling out of the Paris Agreements was a set-back, other than the cutting off funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.

One more thing I would add is, another way which is very difficult to judge the Trump administration is not what was in place when he came into office, but what might have been, if a different person had become President. Against that metric, particularly in energy and environmental questions, President Trump really looks like he isn’t that interested in environmental quality, which I think has been the most major change from the Obama administration.

How is USA’s current foreign policy going to impact India?

I expect that there will be a lot of common ground. In the USA, there is an abundance of energy resources, and there’s a desire to find a way to find new markets to export it, with India being a viable market for it, given India’s need for energy security and the rising demand for energy. And I expect over time, there will be new deals announced in that direction. I think, there is a general movement away from internationalism, and I expect that’s not a plus for India. However I think India and USA will share common ground in many areas.

What about India’s IT sector? Do you think that wwill be impacted too?

I don’t know, it’s hard to predict. But if the initial claims of being focused on US only, it could make it more difficult for US to import services from India. But we will have to wait and see how exactly it is impacted.

What do you think the future holds for bilateral relations between India and USA?

India is rapidly growing country with a very bright future and it’s difficult to imagine that the United States wouldn’t want to stay engaged with it. Probably less enthusiastic about international engagement generally, but India seems like a country United States would want to stay engaged with..

How is USA’s current domestic policy going to impact the environment exactly? What does it hold for the environment?

Well firstly, USA’s green-house emissions are going to go up, compared to what would have happened. And it’s a little early to tell, but I suspect conventional pollution is likely to go up compared to what would have happened if Donald Trump hadn’t become President. I think in the domain of environment protection, there will be a setback with the new administration.



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